Since the last time I posted, it’s still depressingly early to be talking about fantasy baseball. Nothing has changed, except for the minutes of light shaved off our days and the imperceptible shift from slate grey to dirty black in the dusk sky as you rush home from work.
The main controversy over last week’s third base tiers was Alex Bregman. Almost everyone thought I ranked him too low, which I agreed with, but some thought he belonged in the same tier as Evan Longoria, Justin Turner and Jose Ramirez. I always tend to be more jaded than most about prospects, but I can’t see Bregman out-earning any of those guys over a full season. That said, if you’re playing the upside game, drafting him around Todd Frazier/Jake Lamb/Miguel Sano/Maikel Franco could pay off.
I’m tackling second basemen this week, and thought that BoJack Horseman would be a suitably depressing theme. I set the cutoff at 400 PA in order to make this manageable, but if you’re dying to know where I would rank Tyler Saladino then tweet at me.
2016 was the year I stopped underrating Brian Dozier. If you add up his HR + R + RBI + SB you get 263. No second baseman had a higher counting stat total, and Dozier managed to rack up most of those numbers in just half a season. His .354 ISO in the second half was Bondsian, and his 18 steals beat out Ian Kinsler, Roughned Odor and Jason Kipnis – all guys who you would expect to outrun Dozier, who looks like he came to the ballpark straight from a PTA meeting.
Altuve and Cano don’t need any explanation, but Murphy made the jump into the first tier after leading all second basemen in wOBA (.408) and wRC+ (156). His BABIP will come down a little from .348, but his massive improvements in K%, GB% and IFFB% should keep that average above .300.
Character Actress Margo Martindale
A lot of people are slotting Turner firmly into the first tier. Mike Podhorzer at Rotographs extrapolated his 2016 stats over 650 PA and came out with a wet dream: .342 AVG, 26 HR, 106 R, 80 RBI, 66 SB.
But then you look at how he posted a .225 ISO in the majors after never posting more than a .169 ISO at any minor league level. And his relatively average exit velocity. And his 16% HR/FB. And his .388 BABIP. And his high rate of pitches faced in the zone. And his weakness to curveballs.
Even with tempered expectations, a 10 HR/40 SB player batting around .290 with a ton of runs scored is extremely valuable. It’s just not enough to convince me to draft him ahead of any of the first tier guys.
If you filter all the qualified second baseman by wOBA in 2016, you get Daniel Murphy and Jose Altuve at the top, followed by – in this order – 3. DJ LeMahieu, 4. Matt Carpenter, 5. Jean Segura.
Sure, wOBA isn’t a perfect stat for fantasy purposes, but that’s why Roughned Odor – who ranked 17th by wOBA – is in this tier. Homers and steals were enough to get Odor and his pathetic 3% walk rate into this tier, but if LeMahieu and Carpenter can stay healthy, their counting stats could explode. No second baseman batted .300+/.400+/.500+ in 2016, but I could see either of these guys accomplishing the feat in 2017.
As I previously explained in the third baseman tiers post, I’m not sold on 2017 being the year Baez breaks out. Still, I like his tools enough to put him in this tier.
Travis is a guy who’s being criminally under rated by the projection systems. Steamer has him pegged for .274/.318/.418 with just 12 HR and 6 SB. Those counting stats are suppressed by the fact that he’s only projected to play in 122 games due to his injury record. That’s a valid concern, and you might very well end up with 12 HR, but I see three factors that should lead to a tastier slash line.
- His all-fields approach will get his batting average up around .300. He pulled the ball a little more in his second season, but he still sprays the ball all over the field.
- His HR/FB dropped from 16% to 9% from 2015 to 2016. I see him somewhere in between those two numbers, and with his FB% trending from 28% to 35%, if he can turn his opposite field flies into doubles/homers, watch out.
- He bounced up and down the Jays batting order in 2016, but a full healthy season in a Bautista and Encarnacion-less lineup should give him a shot at locking down the 5th spot or even leadoff.
At just 25 years old, it’s weird to say this, but I think Schoop has almost hit his peak. Sure he could push his homer total from 25 to 30, and maybe he flukes his way into a bunch of RBIs. But with a sub-4% walk rate and an OBP under .300, he’s essentially Roughned Odor without the steals or the upside.
Forsythe took a step back after posting a shocking 125 wRC+ in 2015, but a lot of that had to do with a fractured shoulder that limited his playing time and effectiveness towards the end of the season. If you ignore the 20 point drop in his batting average, the underlying skill set is a lot like Carlos Santana’s.
Forsythe posted the ninth-best chase rate in the league and his exit velocity on fly balls and line drives surged (93.4 MPH to Santana’s 93.8 MPH). The Rays lineup isn’t ideal, but batting somewhere between Matt Duffy, Evan Longoria and Brad Miller should lead to plenty of runs and RBIs.
These four players embody the volatility and risky upside of Sarah Lynn. Each showed flashes of brilliance in 2016 that could translate into monster value next season.
If Dee Gordon wasn’t on the Marlins, I would’ve put Dietrich in the Rutabaaga Rabbitowitz tier. Bold. I know. But his .348 wOBA put him right ahead of Kipnis, and his .374 OBP was a product of a solid walk rate that should trend up as his patience develops. If he ever gets a full-time gig in a solid lineup, I could see him being a poor man’s Zobrist.
Gyorko might be the most interesting name on this list. In what was the season of 30 HR seasons, nobody got there in fewer plate appearances than Gyorko did. The big red flag is that he almost doubled his HR/FB rate from 13% to 25% with essentially the same exit velocity from 2015. But hey! He also hit way more fly balls! Especially off of breaking pitches which he had previously been grounding out on. Best case scenario: He gets a full season of plate appearances and approximates Dozier’s production. Worst case scenario: He’s Starlin Castro with a worse batting average.
Ideally, you don’t want to have anything to do with this tier, but there could be some diamonds in this rough. Peterson – who will once again get around 400 PA just because he’s on the Braves and they have nobody better – surprised me with his almost elite plate discipline. It doesn’t mean much without power or speed, but his 12.7 BB% and 16.9 K% yielded a BB/K ratio on par with Matt Carpenter’s and a wOBA (.317) a touch better than Javier Baez’s.
Phillips’ walk rate continues to recede into nothingness, and as his legs slow down his OBP (and batting average) may plunge below .300. As long as he keeps getting tons of PAs he’s still the most valuable guy in this tier.
These guys are just the worst. Scumbags, really. If this were It’s Always Sunny themed, I would’ve ranked Utley #1 overall in the Mac tier, but it’s not and Utley is 38 years old.
Giavotella, come see me when your OPS breaks .700.
Lowrie, how did you strike out 25% of the time and only hit two homers? What were you selling out for if not for power?